“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.’” (Matthew 2:1-2, NKJV)
How had the wise men heard of the Messiah and His birth?
To answer that question we need to go back to the Old Testament book of Numbers. In chapter 24, Balak, the King of the Moabites (the descendents of Lot) witnessed the children of Israel coming out of Egypt. Seeing perhaps as many as 2 million people traveling together, he was terrified. So he appealed to a hireling prophet named Balaam. Balaam, although a false prophet, actually had the privilege of God speaking to him. King Balak offered him great rewards if he would come and curse Israel. And we all know the story about Balaam’s donkey and how he spoke to him. Against the will of God, Balaam was allowed to go, not to curse, but to bless Israel.
Three times Balak asked Balaam to curse Israel, and three times Balaam blessed Israel. One of Balaam’s blessings (some 1,400 years before the birth of Christ) is recorded in Numbers 24:17:
“I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel, And batter the brow of Moab, And destroy all the sons of tumult.”
Moab was east of the land God ultimately gave to Israel. Perhaps when the star appeared, the these men remembered the words of Balaam, passed down from generation to generation until fulfilled in their time.
It is also possible that these men were familiar with the words of Daniel the Prophet, spoken during the captivity of Israel in Babylon, Daniel 2:44-45:
“And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold — the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure.”
Perhaps they even had heard of the prophecy of Isaiah 9:6-7:
“For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”
When Herod inquired of the Religious Leaders where The Christ was to be born, they responded immediately. They did not need to go and search the Scriptures; they did not need to turn to the passage and read it. They had committed the Scriptures to memory:
“So they said to him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’” (Matthew 2:5-6, NKJV)
They knew all about the Messiah; however, their knowledge was academic rather than vital. The Scriptures where not personally meaningful to them.
It is the utmost tragedy of man, that when God became a man and dwelt among us, we did not know Him, John 1:10:
“He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.”
Even worse, the Nation to whom the Messiah was promised, the Chosen People of God, failed to believe in Him, John 1:11:
“He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.”
The reaction of the Religious Leaders was that of complete indifference. There is no record of them traveling with the wise Men.
The journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem was 80 miles. Mary rode on the back of a donkey, pregnant, while Joseph walked, leading the donkey, for 80 miles.
The journey from Jerusalem to Bethlehem was just 5 miles; 5 miles from the very Son of God; and yet, none of the Religious Leaders went to see Him. They just didn’t care. They knew the Scriptures yet, they missed the coming of their long awaited Messiah by 5 miles because of their indifference.
What are you celebrating this Christmas? Many will no doubt, party, get drunk, exchange gifts, and celebrate a Holiday they are completely indifferent to. Christmas is about the coming of the Son of God into the world to save us from our sins. Many know the story; yet they, like the Religious Leaders of Jesus day, are completely indifferent to the true meaning of Christmas.
How about you? Perhaps this year you might come to know the real Reason for the Season?
On God’s Christmas Tree,
by Randy West
On God’s Christmas tree,
Hung no silver ball,
No candy cane, choo choo train,
No, not a toy at all
On God’s Christmas tree
No candlelight, not one,
But on His tree, Who died for me,
Hung His Only Son”
May yours be a very Merry Christmas…